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What is Computer Erasing?

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  • Written By: S. Gonzales
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 29 November 2016
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Computer erasing is the permanent deletion of sensitive files or information on a computer's hard drive or disk. It does what simple file deletions, recycle bin emptying, hard drive formatting and hard drive repartitioning does not- it erases all traces of the files and folders so that they cannot be accessed by any third-parties. All of the aforementioned methods can be countered and data can be recovered even after their actions have been taken.

The key element to understand when trying to comprehend how computer erasing works is that standard deletions of files and folders does not erase files or folders directly. Pressing a delete key or emptying a recycle bin simply erases the path to the file or folder. The file or folder still remains on a computer, waiting to be accessed through non-traditional routes. Computers have a resource called a File Allocation Table (FAT) that makes the access of supposedly deleted files and folders possible even after deletions have taken place. The FAT stores all information necessary to retrieve files or folders. Overwriting the FAT is the only way to truly remove access to them.

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Reformatting a hard drive is often thought to erase all the information on a disk. However, to truly erase the information on the disk, users should consider erasing the hard drive, reformatting the disk and then writing zeros all throughout the disk. Computer erasing is a standard practice in governmental agencies that require that information contained on computers be kept confidential or private, though their methods may be more cautious. It's not uncommon for governmental agencies to use magnets to demagnetize a disk and render it inoperable before physically destroying it.

Users are advised to invest in some computer erasing before throwing away, giving away or selling their old computers. Anyone who obtains a computer that has not undergone a hard drive wipe may be able to recover the data on it. People who use computers to store their financial information, for example, are at risk of having their personal information stolen if they do not have their devices undergo a computer wipe.

Software exists to make computer erasing easy for the average user who cannot manually erase data on their drives. This software can be purchased at retail stores or downloaded off the Internet for a fee. When using these utilities, consumers should consider running the software multiple times so that hard drives are rewritten more than once. This will make it extra difficult for third-parties to gain access to old information.

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Discuss this Article

Euroxati
Post 3

In my opinion, you should only do computer erasing if you need a new one soon, it's badly damaged, or as a primary last resort.

Hazali
Post 2

@Viranty - So in other words, are you saying that it shows how once information is on the computer, it's very hard to erase? If so, I agree with you. When it comes to the realm of cyberspace, one thing we need to learn is that before we send information or put it on the computer, we need to think about whether we really want to download or send it, because once you do, you can never get it back.

For example, one time I accidentally downloaded some malicious software onto my computer. Though I was able to get it off eventually, there are still traces of the material on my computer, and it's very hard to find. This article does a great job at (indirectly) emphasizing that fact.

Viranty
Post 1

One thing I really like about this article is how it doesn't emphasize that computer erasing means you can never get your information back. In fact, even in the third paragraph, notice how it says that erasing the hard drive is how one should truly erase disk information.

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